Horror Movie News and Reviews

James Wan: A Master Class in How Horror’s Done

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James Wan is the reigning horror master of my generation.  There, I said it.  I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last.  But what does it mean, and how did he earn the title?

Well, in every type of art, there are many who ply their trade.  Most are very good at what they do.  They work hard to bring their vision to the world at large, and the best lay their souls bare in the process.  Then there are those whose vision, style, sense of place and timing, and understanding of character, not only lay their own souls bare, but manage to teach us something about ourselves in the process.

In the realm of horror, we have our own.  Carpenter, Craven, Hooper, and Romero, have, in their turn, revitalized the genre and redefined what it could be.  At 39, with an impressive body of work under his belt already, Mr. Wan has established a legacy that will see his name spoken in the same revered tones as these notable men.  Some of us do already.

But why?  What sets Wan, the producer of the hotly anticipated Lights Out,  apart from his contemporaries, and what keeps us coming back for more?

For that, we have to go back to the beginning.

Not all the way back mind you, though I will note than he was born in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, and later moved to Australia.  It was this move to the storied “land down under” that brought Wan to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where he connected with fellow student, Leigh Whannell, and formed a partnership that would catapult them both global fame.

Leigh

It all began with a saw…

In early 2004, trailers began to crop up for a brand new horror film called Saw.  No one was really sure what it was, but something about that trailer drew us in and would not let us go.

Perhaps it was Billy, the sinister puppet who conveyed Jigsaw’s message to his victims.  Perhaps it was the promise of torture, traps, and terror.  Whatever it was in that trailer, people began to show up in droves.  What we found was a masterpiece…an intense and riveting film that forced us to look inward at our own shortcomings and question whether we would fight to survive if we found ourselves in one of Jigsaw’s traps.

In short, it did what many horror films never consider.  It made us think.  Wan’s direction and more importantly, his misdirection, nailed us to our seats and left us second guessing right to the end.

What most didn’t realize while watching the film was just how intentional each moment of the film was.  From the claustrophobic settings to the harsh lighting, each moment was meticulously planned executed.  No small feat for a film with a modest budget and an 18 day shooting schedule.  I knew from those first few moments, though, that this was a director I had to know more about.

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